Zana Fraillon (text) and Grahame Baker Smith (illustrator), Wisp: A Story of Hope, Hachette Australia, August 28 2018, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780734418043
“Idris lived in a small, small world. A world where fences grew from the dirt and where shadows ruled.”
In a place of darkness and loneliness, a young boy discovers a wisp. Unnoticed by others, Idris gently holds it, but the wisp is not for him. It sends Idris running past rows and rows of tents until the wisp is with its rightful owner. Only then can the joyful memories it holds be set free.
Idris finds wisp after wisp and each one guides him to its owner until only one remains. But this wisp belongs to Idris. And he has not had a long life full of joy and experiences. What could it possibly contain?
Heartbreakingly beautiful, Wisp tackles the despair of life as an asylum seeker. Fraillon’s poetic storytelling takes the reader on an extraordinary journey before the aching realisation of what it means to be a child in a refugee camp. Wisp makes comment on both the beauty and despair of the people who are victims of brutal government policies and the place of children within detention centres.
The illustrations by Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Graham Baker Smith are an aptly oppressive canvas of blues and blacks. There is a beautiful sadness to the skilful use of light and the hope it signifies.
Written by Amnesty CILIP Honour-winning author of The Bone Sparrow, Zana Fraillon’s Wisp is a moving story and a powerful tool for developing empathy and compassion.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens